How can animals play dead

The animal talkLiving corpses

There are animal species that simply play dead in danger. After all, which predator would like to eat a more or less elderly corpse? Other animals, on the other hand, pretend they are dead for completely different reasons. Our biologist Dr. Introduce Mario Ludwig in more detail.

The most famous killer is the possum

By far the most well-known "killer" in the animal kingdom is the opossum. If these 40 centimeter tall, North American opossums are threatened by a physically superior predator, the opossum will immediately turn itself to death.

External content

This leads to external content from a provider such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. If you load this content, personal data will be transferred to this platform and possibly other third parties. You can find more information in our privacy policy.

Predators are, for example, coyotes, wolves and pumas. And the opossum holds up against them with quite impressive acting skills. It falls like a felled tree, closes its eyes and lets its tongue hang far out of its mouth. At the same time, it exudes a carrion-like scent from its anal glands. The whole thing is so convincing that the term "playing possum" has become a frequently used synonym for "to play dead" in American colloquial language.

The best woman killed is the Cuban dwarf boa

In terms of acting, however, the opossum is surpassed by the Cuban dwarf boa. This boa is a 80 centimeter long snake that plays a corpse with great devotion and attaches great importance to detail. First of all, it rolls up into a lifeless tangle to suggest to the inclined viewer that rigor mortis has already set in. At the same time it emits a liquid that smells of carrion, which is supposed to pretend that the snake is already decaying. To top it off, the snake bursts some special blood vessels, with the result that it bleeds from its mouth and nose and its eyes turn red.

Foxes and a species of cichlid play dead to confuse their meal

Foxes pretend to be dead to fill their own stomachs. According to observations by wildlife biologists, the little predators like to mimic a corpse to attract scavenging crows. If a crow has dared to go into the immediate vicinity of the allegedly deceased, it is grabbed by the latter and mutates into a meal itself.

A species of cichlid with the scientific name Nimbochromis livingstonii lives in Lake Malawi in East Africa. This fish, around 30 centimeters long, is what biologists refer to as piscivorous - fish-eating - predators. The little perch lies on the bottom of the lake, imitating a dead fish.

External content

This leads to external content from a provider such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. If you load this content, personal data will be transferred to this platform and possibly other third parties. You can find more information in our privacy policy.

If a small fish that likes to eat carrion approaches, the cichlid snaps. This unusual hunting method also gave the cichlid its name among the locals. They call him Kalingono, which translated means sleeper.